Wel­come in our gar­den


Out from my par­ents’ kitchen win­dow is a view that ri­vals that from any nat­u­ral­ist’s hide.

Just steps away perched up high in the porch’s climb­ing rose is a black­bird’s nest. The ba­bies, half grown, sit with mouths agape partly due to hunger, but also in an at­tempt to cool off un­der the hot plas­tic roof­ing. Their at­ten­tive par­ents have de­vel­oped nifty ways of fly­ing un­der and up to come and go from their nest and avoid hu­mans sit­ting on the deck be­low.

It nearly wasn’t to be, with the first nest-build­ing at­tempt by the hus­band re­jected by the fe­male as she in­spected his ef­forts one day. In dis­gust, he later came back and fu­ri­ously tore the whole thing apart.

My fa­ther gave a hand and nailed a tim­ber plat­form com­plete with car­pet for grip and in­stalled a wooden sun-shade. The pair once again built a nest which was quickly filled with a clutch of eggs. De­spite the sun-shade not be­ing quite big enough, the fam­ily are thriv­ing, safe from cats, with a gar­den sup­ply­ing look- out points from the trees and plenty of worms.

Birds are a great joy and use­ful friend in the gar­den, even though they may scratch up seeds, eat fruit and poo on out­door fur­ni­ture.

A sim­ple feeder of a slice of tim­ber hung near a win­dow makes an in­ter­est­ing live show as dif­fer­ent birds come to eat the scraps of­fered to them – just don’t feed them cake, as they might de­velop a taste and like my par­ents’ long-term res­i­dent black­bird, swoop inside and help them­selves off the ta­ble.

Pro­vid­ing bird nest­ing houses is a good way to en­cour­age birds into your gar­den and star­ling boxes can be nailed to trees and fence tops where cats are un­likely to reach them. Dur­ing sum­mer a bird bath can be­come a hub for bird life in your gar­den – like a wa­ter-cooler in an of­fice is for hu­mans – ev­ery­one con­gre­gates there for re­fresh­ment and so­cial contact.

A bath can be as sim­ple as a hol­lowed out log placed on a ta­ble.

If you do come across a bird’s nest in your gar­den, be wary about ap­proach­ing it. A scared-off par­ent bird may not come back and young chicks, left alone, will die. Once fledglings of black­bird and thrush leave the nest, they live on the ground for a while, scut­tling in the un­der­growth while their par­ents continue to feed them.

It is at this time they are most vul­ner­a­ble to preda­tor at­tack and eas­ily fall prey to cats and dogs. A bell on a cat’s col­lar can help warn of ap­proach­ing dan­ger.

Thrush are a wel­come song­bird as is the tiny grey war­bler which can some­times be ob­served preen­ing and emit­ting its sil­very-bells song. If you are for­tu­nate to have fan­tails and sil­vereyes in your gar­den, then pro­vid­ing them with dense shrub­bery is a good way to en­cour­age them to nest. Sil­ver­eye will re­pay you by pick­ing cater­pil­lars and other in­sects from your veg­eta­bles in sum­mer.


Hun­gry: Black­bird fledglings await their next in­stal­ment of worms.

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